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Monthly Image: Transit of Mercury

The 2016 Transit of Mercury, as seen from Red Oaks Mill:

Mercury transit - 2016-05-09

Mercury transit – 2016-05-09

Hint: Mercury is (almost certainly) the tiny speck below and left of the crosshair.

The larger speck is (almost certainly) Sunspot 12529, one of the few in this part of a historically weak Solar Cycle. Its shape would be obvious though a real telescope.

If you know what you’re doing, you can measure the size of the sun and scale the entire solar system from observations like that. Takes more science than I’ll ever accomplish, that’s for sure!

I realized the show was on just before Greatest Transit (roughly what you see above), so I duct-taped a 1 inch spotter / finder scope to a camera tripod, taped a sun shield on the scope, bent some card stock for a screen, then assembled everything on the patio:

Mercury transit - 2016-05-09 - spotting scope setup

Mercury transit – 2016-05-09 – spotting scope setup

Astronomy mostly happens at night; this was an unexpected delight!

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  1. #1 by madbodger on 2016-05-15 - 08:56

    You can do science with paper and tape. A surprising amount of science is done that way, in fact.

    • #2 by Ed on 2016-05-15 - 09:49

      We recently read Great Calculations, which reminded us that our ancestors weren’t nearly as dumb as we generally give them credit for being and how a few careful observations can refute millennia of dogma.

      • #3 by madbodger on 2016-05-15 - 10:11

        That looks like a book I’d enjoy, I’ll check it out!